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April 17, 2020

Refugees in Austin, Texas sew masks for healthcare heroes


The sewing machines at Open Arms Studio in Austin, Texas are silent today but that hasn’t stopped a group of its seamstresses from working from home sewing masks in an effort to meet the local demand.

Lead by Maria Vung, a former refugee form Myanmar, the group is collectively producing nearly 1000 masks a week that are being donated to hospitals and healthcare workers.

"I feel so grateful that I am a [sewing] team member helping during this time because everyone is suffering from this disease,” says Maria, who started at Open Arms three years ago and is now a sewing manager. “I'm grateful to be safe at home with family, while at the same time helping others in need.”

While balancing the demands of working from home, and helping her children with online learning, Maria is inspired by the idea that she can play a positive role in her community by “doing small things with great love.” "I am so proud of our community helping during this crisis,” she continues.

maria sews

And it’s no surprise to Meg Erskine, CEO and Co-Founder of MRC, that former refugees are stepping up to help their new communities in a time of crisis. "It is in moments like these that we learn from the resilience of our refugee community and look to their stories as reminders of hope and endurance amidst uncertainty,” says Erskine.

Open Arms Studio is the social enterprise division of the Multicultural Refugee Coalition (MRC) – an innovative nonprofit organization that blends skills-based education with social entrepreneurship to connect refugees to dignified, fair-wage work in Austin, Texas. You can donate masks to healthcare workers or order your own by visiting the MRC website.

How you can help…

Do you know an everyday hero who is rallying their community during this time of need? We’d love to hear from you! Please contact us at and help us spread some more good news.

Want to do more? The UN Refugee Agency is on the ground ensuring health and safety for refugees – but we need your help. Donate today and help rush critical supplies like medicine, clean water, hygiene supplies and personal protection kits to desperate children and families.